Poetry by John Grochalski

the movie ticket cashier has a window

into the deepest fears resting in my soul


the movie ticket cashier

sells me a senior citizen ticket

at the age of forty-four


this chipper grim reaper

senses the stench of death on me


and all it’s worth to him


is his cheap smile

and a six-dollar discount.


the bather


he flushes the toilet

in the public men’s room

more than a dozen times


he’s usually in there

a good forty minutes


there is generally a line by then


an angry-faced mob of men

checking their watches

and doing their pee-pee dance


when he finally comes out

his long hair is slicked back

and the beard is gleaming


a layer of new york city dirt

is gone from his chapped face


the crowd parts for him like the red sea


they let him walk back out

into the glare of the sun and the street


before turning back to each other

like red-faced idiots


with no clue

who was supposed

to get to use the restroom next.


the bottle collectors


the bottle collectors

are outside my window

riffling through the garbage


as i sit in this chair with a hangover


they rattle their treasures unmercifully

they’re loud enough to wake the dead


i think of all of the years of drinking


all of the bottles and cans that i emptied

and threw away like they were nothing


hangovers that have become

a goldmine for someone else


then i fart loudly into the void


and stumble off

to get my broke ass

ready for work.


from near the verrazzano-narrows bridge,

jogging, a complaint about the weather, etc.


i’m still doing this, why?

dragging myself out of the door at seven in the morning


to face the calamity of cars

and high school students

and parents and wailing babies


smiling, waxen fellow joggers who feel compelled to wave


and dogs who’d rip me apart like captured carrion

should i stumble before their wooly, jagged muzzles


what should i think?

that vanity must be the last refuge of a scoundrel


i feel scandalous

in an ill-fitting t-shirt

my booze belly hanging over ill-fitting shorts

sweat pouring off of me


sore knees and sore shoulder

dying unnaturally in the unnatural heat of april


for that matter

where has the spring gone?


it comes for a week now

spreads its allergic seeds

and then the summer chases it out of the house

as if it were a philandering prick


even the tulips bend under the burden of the sun


and the verrazzano-narrows bridge

looks molten in the blood-red haze


like it too wants

to give up the game

collapse into the cold belly of the atlantic ocean


and drift away as if a dried leaf

leftover from an autumn

that last winter was unable to swallow.


thinking about mt. washington (pittsburgh)


been a long time

since i thought about cruising mt. washington


young, blurry nights behind the wheel

with calvin and steve and colby


reckless with cheap beer and cigarettes

and the immortality of a fool


as pittsburgh glowed below us

spent from our revelry on humid summer nights


chasing women with stale inuendo


then going home alone to porn magazines

drunken, horny lotharios with nothing to show for it

but sore wrists and tissue paper


before passing out


then hours later

leaning over a toilet bowl

convulsing with the morning’s vomitous hangover


memory’s cheap regret

and the body’s rancor making us shiver


yet planning on calling all of the fellows later

to trade war stories over the evening’s first pint


and do it all again.

I am a published writer whose poetry has appeared your journal as well as in several online and print publications including:  Red Fez, Rusty Truck, Outsider Writers Collective, Underground Voices, The Lilliput Review, The Main Street Rag, Zygote In My Coffee, The Camel Saloon, and Bartleby Snopes.  I am the author four books of poetry The Noose Doesn’t Get Any Looser After You Punch (Six Gallery Press, 2008), Glass City (Low Ghost Press, 2010), Starting with the Last Name Grochalski (Coleridge Street Press, 2014), and The Philosopher’s Ship (Alien Buddha Press, 2018).  I am also the author of the novels, The Librarian (Six Gallery Press, 2013) and Wine Clerk (Six Gallery Press, 2016).